Gatlinburg, Tennessee fire update

1129-tennessee-fireGatlinburg, Tenn. (CNN) — More than 100 structures in the city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, have been damaged, Mayor Mike Warner said Tuesday morning. More than 150 other structures have been damaged or destroyed in other parts of Sevier County, county Mayor Larry Waters told reporters at a news conference.

Warner, the Gatlinburg mayor, says he believes that his house is among those lost.

“But things can be rebuilt. Our downtown’s intact, and that’s really great for our economy” and the city’s future, Warner said. “We will rebuild, and we will remain the premier resort community that we are. … It will be OK.”

Winds and the Southeast’s worst drought in nearly a decade have helped the fires thrive.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • More than 14,000 residents and visitors are believed to have been evacuated from Gatlinburg alone, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday morning. Evacuations also have been ordered in other communities including Pigeon Forge.
  • At least four people have been hospitalized with burns, TEMA said.
  • Rain fell Monday night, but it was too late and too little to prevent damage as the region also felt wind gusts in excess of 80 mph. “Even with the rain that is currently falling there, the fires continue to burn and structures remain engulfed with little hope that the rainfall will bring immediate relief,” TEMA said Tuesday.
  • Several homes and businesses in downtown Gatlinburg were “completely lost to fire,” according to authorities. A report Tuesday morning from TEMA said hundreds of structures had been damaged or destroyed.
  • Among the buildings destroyed in Gatlinburg are a 16-story hotel and an apartment complex, TEMA said.
  • Other popular Gatlinburg attractions appeared under threat, including Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, which has 1,500 animals. Staff were forced to evacuate Monday evening, and the animals still are inside, Ripley Entertainment Regional Manager Ryan DeSear told CNN Tuesday. DeSear said that according to reports he has received, the aquarium still is standing. The facility’s webcam showed lights and power still working inside, but he’s concerned about the deteriorating air quality, as well as the smoke and flames. DeSear said he’s hoping some staff will be allowed back into the facility Tuesday to assess the damage.

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